The Seattle University received a $300 million gift of art


Now, Hedreen, 88, is gifting his entire collection, comprising more than 200 artworks and estimated to be worth about $300 million, to Seattle University.
According to the university, the donation — in honor of Hedreen’s late wife and Seattle U alum Betty — is the largest gift of art ever made to a college.
It is also the most significant single gift ever made to a university in Washington state and the largest gift of any kind in Seattle U’s 133-year history, the university said.
The art collection, which includes paintings, sculptures and photos, will be transferred to the university once the museum is built and ready to receive it.
“I think it’s a win-win for Seattle University and for Seattle,” he said.
“It will be an incredible addition to the city of Seattle.”The Hedreens were longtime supporters of Seattle arts.
Betty Hedreen was also an important supporter of the Seattle Art Museum.
So why didn’t the Hedreen collection go to SAM, Seattle’s foremost art museum?
In 2008, the Harvard Art Museum received a collection of 31 artworks then valued at $200 million.
What’s also certain: At the Seattle University Museum of Art, the Hedreen collection will largely remain on view in a permanent gallery.

With what’s in Richard “Dick” Hedreen’s house, you could teach an art history course. A museum-like atmosphere permeates the Seattle hotel and real estate developer’s home. A veritable who’s who of 20th-century art, including Lucian Freud, Sam Francis, and Willem de Kooning, welcomes guests from the walls of the spacious and elegant hallway. Pop art, modern paintings, and a stately eighteenth-century oil portrait coexist in the living room alongside a nearly two-thousand-year-old marble sculpture. A rustic tableau by renowned 19th-century realist Gustave Courbet is on display in the bedroom. And isn’t that portrait over there a Pontormo?

It is now estimated that Hedreen, 88, is worth $300 million or more. He is giving Seattle University his entire collection, which consists of over 200 artworks. In addition, he is contributing $25 million as seed money toward the creation of a museum to hold the collection. The donation is the largest art gift ever given to a college, according to the university, and it was made in memory of Hedreen’s late wife Betty, a Seattle University alum. According to Seattle University, it is also the biggest gift of any kind in the institution’s 133-year history and the most significant single gift ever given to a university in the state of Washington.

It’s not just the gift’s size that makes it noteworthy. Furthermore, it’s noteworthy because other noteworthy collections in recent years, such as those of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Seattle travel tycoon Barney A. Rather than staying in the city or being made available to the public, Ebsworth have been distributed through auction sales.

The nonprofit Jesuit university intends to construct the museum on its Capitol Hill campus, most likely on a plot that borders 12th Avenue and is adjacent to the Lee Center for the Arts. The museum is currently known as the Seattle University Museum of Art. When the museum is constructed and prepared to accept it, the paintings, sculptures, and photographs that make up the art collection will be given to the university.

The collection, which includes outstanding examples of Western art history and spans more than six centuries, will be a resource for teachers, students, and art enthusiasts throughout the city, according to Eduardo Peñalver, president of Seattle University. He declared, “It’s a win-win for Seattle and for Seattle University.”.

Hedreen repeated Peñalver’s remarks in a recent interview. Sitting in his living room beside a large, collage-style painting by pop art legend Roy Lichtenstein and a lean, limestone statue of Max Ernst, he stated, “I hope it’ll raise up Seattle University.”. “I believe it will be beneficial for the city. “.


Hedreen stated that the donation was made for a number of reasons, some of which were monetary. He pointed out that there would be a big tax bill if the artwork were a part of his estate. That seems like too much giving in to the state. “.

He added, though, that the gift is also incredibly personal. Together with his late wife Elizabeth “Betty” Ann Petri Hedreen, a well-known arts philanthropist who attended Seattle University and passed away in 2022, he accumulated his collection.

Hedreen mentioned Seattle Prep, the Jesuit high school on Capitol Hill, where he was a freshman. “We read Shakespeare, and they introduced me to poetry. The visual arts were significant,” he remarked. Though he went on to become an engineer, “I never forgot the educators that the Jesuits were,” he said. “When Betty was a student at Seattle University, he met her while attending the University of Washington.

Hedreen started the development firm R.C at the beginning of the 1960s. Hedren Co. (now well-known for significant nearby hotels like the Hyatt Regency and Hilton). A few years later, the Hedreens began to gather. The couple decorated their home with “regional paintings” at first, but they quickly expanded.

They bought art at galleries and auction houses in New York, California, Chicago, and Europe over the ensuing decades. They acquired works by well-known and historical artists like Titian and Jan Lievens, as well as photographs from the 20th century by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, and Andy Warhol, as well as contemporary pieces by active painters like Amy Sherald, Cecily Brown, Tomma Abts, and Rashid Johnson. In fact, some of the collection’s newest pieces were created in 2022, making them essentially brand-new.


Barrett White, executive deputy chairman of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art department, praised the collection’s historical scope. Christie’s valued the collection at $300 million. He also commended Hedreen for her “incredible connoisseurship and insatiable intellectual curiosity.”. “.

In America, White claimed, it is among the greatest collections. It’s going to be a fantastic addition to Seattle. “.

The Hedreens had always been a part of the Seattle art scene. They funded the construction of the Lee Center for the Arts and the university’s Chapel of Saint Ignatius, which was created by renowned architect Steven Holl, as well as numerous artwork donations to Seattle University over the years.

An influential advocate of the Seattle Art Museum was Betty Hedreen as well. She was elected an honorary trustee for life in 2017 after serving on the museum’s board of trustees for a number of years. Additionally, the couple gave the organization several well-known works of art.

Why then did Seattle’s premier art museum, SAM, not acquire the Hedreen collection?

Richard Hedreen expressed his desire to pay tribute to his wife’s alma mater. His choice was influenced by additional considerations, such as his preference for the collection to remain cohesive. because the collector’s identity is revealed by it. “I don’t like the idea of the art being in storage,” he continued. “.


Donating to a college instead of a renowned museum makes sense in light of this. Generally speaking, large museums are already overflowing with fine art; they are frequently only able to exhibit a small portion of gifts and even their own collections. It’s possible that many works of art will never or very seldom leave storage.

Seattle’s thriving arts scene plays a significant role in our region’s dynamism, as covered by the Seattle Times arts economy section. Ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, real estate problems, and exorbitant expenses are some of the difficulties it faces. with funding provided by the MdotJ. The Seattle Times examines the arts industry in great detail as well as how the arts contribute to the local economy through the Murdock Charitable Trust. We’d like you to get involved in the discussion. Write an email to with your tales, remarks, advice, and ideas. Additional.

For these reasons, rather than trusting their treasure troves to renowned art museums, art collectors are increasingly turning to colleges. It may be a less obvious or prestigious option, but it can raise the likelihood that the work will be viewed and examined.

The collection will be utilized as a teaching tool and a starting point for research, and the Hedreens’ gift is no exception. As prominent examples, Hedreen mentioned renowned East Coast “teaching museums” at Vassar College, Harvard, Yale, and Williams College, where his son and daughter-in-law teach art history.

The math can be tricky because art collections frequently appreciate in value and dollar values fluctuate over time, despite Seattle University’s claim that the Hedreen donation is the largest single gift ever made to a college. 31 pieces of art, estimated at $200 million at the time, were donated to the Harvard Art Museum in 2008.

Sometimes, however, information is just not available to the public. For instance, the University of Texas at Dallas and Princeton have recently received substantial donations of artwork, but university officials have either declined to share the valuations of these collections or have not responded at all.


It is, nevertheless, without a doubt one of the largest art donations to a university in history.

Another thing that is certain is that the Hedreen collection will mainly stay on display in a permanent gallery at the Seattle University Museum of Art. A wing dedicated to Northwest art will be housed in the museum as well. It will feature a wealth of recent gifts to the university from Seattle artists Dennis Evans and Nancy Mee, as well as other donations and artwork from other artists. The wing will feature modern and contemporary local art. Peñalver stated that there will be areas designated for visiting or rotating exhibits, although he clarified that a lot would depend on the curator of the museum.

But they’ll have to construct a structure first. Hedreen mentioned that architect Tom Kundig might have created the structure. The university declared that it has been in communication with Kundig and intends to release an announcement shortly. ).

While a precise timeline is still unknown, construction is intended to begin as soon as feasible. An estimated three to five years will pass before the building is finished. University fundraising for the project will take place in the interim.

Peñalver remarked of Hedreen, “He’d very much like to see it.”. Therefore, we’re trying to finish it as soon as possible.

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